For Andrew Sobiesuo, checking voicemail can be a lot like walking into the common area of a youth hostel, stepping onto a cross-continental passenger train or waiting for a session of the U.N. General Assembly to reconvene. The medley of heavily accented English and variations of French and Spanish that greet him on any given morning, however, isn’t half as diverse as the messages’ content.
“I get inquiries from all over the world about programs at the College, academic equivalencies, working abroad, housing international students here in Charleston – it’s always very random,” laughs the associate provost for international education and director of the Center for International Education. “People see my name online and think I am the go-to-guy for anything international.”
And, truth be told, they’re right. Whether the correspondence is from an educator in Peru, a student in Germany, a policymaker in the Netherlands or a university administrator in Mexico – Sobiesuo will always do his best not just to answer the inquiry, but to explore its potential.
“It is my role to oversee all the different study-abroad programs and international student services at the College – but it’s also my responsibility to advance the program and to develop new programming,” says Sobiesuo, adding that – in addition to developing international education policies, coordinating programs and exchanges with international partner institutions, and working on international education issues and policies with national and international agencies – he often plays host to foreign visitors interested in establishing international study partnerships with the College. “I’m always looking for ways to improve on what we already have and also to create new opportunities for our students.”
Watch the video below to see a sampling of study abroad opportunities available at the College.
And, every now and then, scoping out new opportunities for students means visiting new sites himself.
“We like to be familiar with the location, the types of housing and general facilities and the services available to students at the study-abroad destinations,” he says. “We are not in the business of sending students into unknown environments that might put them in danger. Student safety is a major concern in whatever we do.”
The weight of this responsibility – the balancing act of creating new and exciting opportunities for students and keeping them safe – is not lost on Sobiesuo. He feels it every single minute of every single day.
“You’re responsible for all the hundreds of students who are abroad at all times. It’s a 24-hour job – you have to always be ready to act,” he says. “That makes it very challenging, but also very fulfilling, frankly.”
Sobiesuo taught Spanish language, literature and culture at the College for 13 years before he began splitting his time between the classroom and his post as director of the Center for International Education in 2003. In 2006, however, he turned all his attention to his current responsibilities.
“I didn’t think I was being fair to the students. I was juggling too much, and I couldn’t offer them the attention they deserved,” he says. “I miss the classroom, but I had to look out for the students.”
And that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. Whether they’re currently overseas, they’ve already returned, or they’ve never even thought of studying abroad, Sobiesuo is there to ensure students are getting everything they can out of their education.
“I think study abroad is a necessary part of education. It shows students what they’re capable of doing and what they’re capable of becoming,” he says. “It gives me satisfaction to sit down with students when they come back and see how they have changed, how they’ve become a better person. That’s my favorite part: seeing what they have learned about themselves by getting to know the people and the culture of a different part of the world.”
This article first appeared in the November 2009 issue of the College of Charleston’s employee newsletter, Portico.